Date of Award

2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Communication

First Advisor

Victor W. Pickard

Abstract

This dissertation tests previous unsubstantiated accusations that newspapers intentionally draw their circulation boundaries to exclude minority areas to make their audience look more white and affluent to increase advertising revenue. Analyzing 328 daily newspapers from 2002 – 2015, this dissertation compares the demographics of the zip codes a newspaper serves to the neighboring zip codes a newspaper does not serve. Mirroring how the Department of Justice has defined redlining under the legal theory of disparate impact, I argue that newspapers who serve minority residents at less than 4/5’s the rate of white residents have created discriminatory practices. Using this measurement, I find that in 2014/2015, 15% of daily newspapers with circulations over 10,000 were redlining African American residents, 14% were redlining Asian American residents, and 10% were redlining Hispanic residents. I then show that since 2002, the percentage of papers engaging in redlining has decreased and that newspapers who stopped redlining were most likely to do so after decreasing their service boundaries by more than 25 miles. Using logistic regression, I then show that depending on the racial group, region, residential segregation, and circulation size are significant predictors of whether a paper will engage in redlining. I conclude by arguing that more research is needed to explore whether redlining shapes news coverage and the process in which newspapers set their service boundaries.

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